'King Of Lover's Rock' Not An Easy Call
Reggae artiste Gregory Isaacs,OD, is the undisputed king of lover's rock, well, so says his brother and former road manager, Ruddy Isaacs, who claims the singer was the first artiste to cement lover's rock as a sub-genre of roots reggae.
The outspoken manager not only credits the late icon for coining the name 'lover's rock', but also pointed out that the Night Nurse singer was one of the first to tour Europe extensively, performing lover's rock anthems.
"Lover's Rock wasn't a genre until Gregory used the term. He was the one who made them start calling it 'lover's rock' in England...they used to call that type of music 'blues dance' before, as an extension of reggae music.
Dem sey Gregory had the potential to make the lovers rock on the dance floor and that's how they started to call the genre lovers' rock," he told The Gleaner.
The veteran manager also said that Dennis Brown, who was a close friend of Gregory and frequent collaborator, also held the late singer in high regard for his musical skills. He said together, both Gregory and Dennis were able to break musical barriers by spreading the message of love in Europe.
"They were the first to sing lover's rock in Europe. Most of the Jamaican artistes at the time were targeting mostly England, but we were going to Europe and doing over 30 shows consistently. In Switzerland, Monday nights are usually slow for reggae, and when Gregory went there, it was packed," he said.
With that being said, Ruddy Isaacs wants fans of Jamaican music to get the titles correct when making reference to Gregory. He believes the fitting title for the 'Cool Ruler' should be 'Gregory Isaacs,OD, the King of Lovers Rock'.
"He more than deserves it. He has put in so much work as an artiste and as a producer. Dennis Brown is the prince of reggae, and he told me personally that he would have loved to be able to write songs like 'Soup' did... and for those who don't know, Soup is the alias Dennis used to call Gregory. I know Dennis would have seen Gregory as the king of lover's rock," Ruddy Isaacs said.
Veteran producer King Jammys, told The Gleaner, that while Gregory Isaacs does fit the bill, he would stay clear of crowing the icon, since John Holt and Beres Hammond have also contributed significantly to lover's rock.
"Gregory did a lot of lover's rock songs, and he was called 'Mr Cool' as a result of that. However, Beres does lover's rock, too, and he has been consistent, so it is not a easy call. Gregory did a lot in the past and he was very down-to-earth and rootsy...it's a very close race, so its hard to crown a king. John Holt would also have to be in the race, so it would have to be among the three of them," he said.
King Jammys also commended the Jamaican Government for recently giving Gregory Isaacs the Order of Distinction.
Another icon in the field of artiste management, Tommy Cowan, also shared his view.
Noted as the first person to call Dennis Brown the prince of reggae while under his management, Cowan also believes Gregory Isaacs' contribution to lover's rock is invaluable.
However, he was not quick to put the crown on Gregory's head, citing that there were other acts who would have to be brought into the conversation, namely John Holt and Ken Boothe.
"John Holt had a massive impact, and so did Ken Boothe and some of the other acts who made music in England. I know Gregory played a strong role, but we can't look past the album, 1000 Volts of Holt, which sold over 200,000 copies in England and it was pure love songs. Ken Boothe's, Everything I Own, and Artibella, also did well internationally," he said.
Gregory Isaacs has received four Grammy nominations over his lengthy career and passed away to lung cancer on October 25, 2010 at his home in London.